Before Facebook and Twitter were invented, the
Romans also had a place to express their useless opinions. And this
served them their Forum. Or, more precisely, a place called Rostra.
Rostra was built by order of Julius Caesar in the middle of the 1st
century. It was here, according to Shakespeare, that Mark Antony
delivered his famous speech after the murder of Caesar: "Romans,
fellow citizens and friends! Listen to how I will speak for myself."
Later, Cicero's head and arms were exposed here. The wife of
Mark Antony Fulvia pierced his tongue with a hairpin. Ironically,
Mark Antony himself was defeated in the naval battle of Antinius in
31 BC. The noses of warships or the rostra were added to the
existing podium. Hence the name Rostra or Rostral colon.
The temple of Saturn, which stands immediately
after Rostra, dates back to 42 BC under supervision of Munatius
Plancus (2 years after death of Julius Ceasar). It was built on the
site of a more ancient temple, although earlier temples of the 5th
century BC in the later years of the Roman Kingdom under Tarquinius
Superbus. Its inauguration by the consul Titus Lartius took place in
the early years of the Republic.
The present ruins represent
the third incarnation of the Temple of Saturn, replacing the version
destroyed by the fire of Carinus in 283 AD. The extant inscription
on the frieze commemorates this restoration undertaken after the
fire. If still in use by the 4th-century, the temple would have been
closed during the persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire.
In Roman mythology, Saturn ruled during the Golden Age, and he
continued to be associated with wealth. His temple housed the
treasury (aerarium), where the Roman Republic's reserves of gold and
silver were stored. The state archives and the insignia and official
scale for the weighing of metals were also housed there. Later, the
aerarium was moved to another building, and the archives transferred
to the nearby Tabularium. The temple's podium, in concrete covered
with travertine, was used for posting bills.
According to ancient sources, the statue of the god in the interior
was veiled and equipped with a scythe. The image was made of wood
and filled with oil. The legs were covered with bands of wool which
were removed only on December 17, the day of the Saturnalia.
Collapse has left little standing but the remains
of the front porch. The partially preserved pediment displays the
Senatus Populusque Romanus incendio consumptum
meaning "The Senate and People of Rome restored
[the temple] consumed by fire." The pediment and eight surviving
columns represent one of the iconic images of Rome's ancient